Media Analysis – To the 5 Boroughs

23 Dec

Media Analysis: Beastie Boys – To the 5 Boroughs

Straight from the streets of New York City, the Beastie Boys were always after the audience’s attention. Although they started as a hardcore punk group, they transformed five years later into the popular hip-hop group we know and love today. In their earlier ears as a hip-hop group they stirred more controversy then activism towards the greater good, but later reverted to expressing their ideological values. The Beastie Boys are popularly known for catching an audience’s ear with their eclectic use of catchy lyrics, sampled beats and pop culture references (Beastie Boys, Wikipedia). In building these connections, the Beastie Boys found a way to spread their message along to whoever would listen.

Throughout the years The Beastie Boys have participated in political and environmental activism. The same month they released Ill Communication, The Milarepa Fund was officially launched. This fund was originally started to disburse profits from their sampling use of the Tibetan monks on their current album (Milarepa). Two years later, the Beastie Boys organized the Tibetan Freedom Concert, to support Tibetan independence and creating public awareness for social justice (“Tibetan Freedom,” Wikipedia).

In 2001, the Beastie Boys participated in the New Yorkers Against Violence concerts to raise money for those who were affected by the World Trade Center disaster. They also took the opportunity to spread the word of worldwide peace and justice “without coming off as preachy.” (D’Angelo, 2001)

The Beastie Boys continued to stay involved in social issues after the success of the Tibetan Freedom Concerts, but this time they chose a new issue: the environment. When touring in 2007, they worked with Revert, a non-profit organization that “conducts grassroots outreach and engages music fans online and in concert while simultaneously greening musicians’ tours.” They supported this cause by lowering their carbon footprint on tour and spreading the word to their audience. (Reverb)

The Beastie Boys have never been shy to express their feelings and ideologies throughout their albums and empowering an audience to take part. Most obviously, “You’ve got to fight for your right to party” in the album Licensed to Ill. “You made the mistake you judge a man by his race, you go through life with egg on your face” calling out discrimination towards race in Paul’s Boutique. In “Something’s Got to Give” on Check Your Head they rap again of hopes for equality “I wish for peace between the races. Someday we shall all be one” “Racism is schism on the serious tip”. The Beastie Boy’s even express religious enlightenment on Ill Communication’s “Bodhisattva Vow”, “The bodhisattva path is one of power and strength. A strength from within to go the length” “Therefore, it only makes sense to thank our enemies despite their intent”. To take one day at a time with Hello Nasty’s “Just a Test” “As time goes by in this give and take. As long as I learn, I will make mistakes. What do I want? What do I need? Why do I want it? What’s in it for me?” It is no surprise to find that on their sixth commercial album To the 5 Boroughs, the Beastie Boys are still trying to empower their listeners to fight for their rights.

To the 5 Boroughs second track “Right Right Now Now” jumps right in calling on their fans to join their collation of postmodern positions (Branston, 2006):

Say what we mean, mean what we say

Trajectories from the past are taking their toll and

What we do now is future molding

Columbine bowling, childhood stolen

We need a bit more gun controlling

Referring to Michael Moore’s documentary “Bowling for Columbine”, the Beastie Boys rap that these children are a product of their environment (“Beastie Boys Lyrics,” 2004). Portraying an ideology that the government creates fear that society now surrounds them with. I believe The Beastie Boys are trying to voice that America’s actions have taken a toll and now are coming back and having an equal or worse reaction.

I’m getting kind of tired of the situation

The U.S. attacking other nations

And narrations, on every station

False election’s got me losing my patience

This is the first time in the album the Beastie Boys note a direct discourse for former president George W. Bush. By pointing out the controversial recount process in Florida between Al Gore and George W. Bush, they gain the trust of other citizens who agree. (“Beastie Boys Lyrics,” 2004).

I went to get a loan and they asked my race

I wrote down human inside the space

It’s a disgrace how they try to debase

It ain’t the bank’s damn business how my lineage trace

Adam Yauch’s lyric is particularly interesting, as he expresses his view that the bank is degrading him by making him fill out a form asking his ethnicity. Possibly suggesting the businesses take on the ideology that your business is their business and your race is a reflection of who you are as a person.

In their fourth track “It takes time to build”, the Beastie Boys continue to express their political and environmental activism within their lyrics.

If you don’t like the news then press eject

Stop building SUV’s strung out on OPEC

Hold up wait up you know we come correct

You wanna change things up, well hey then get set

It’s easier to sit back than stick out your neck

It’s easier to break things than build it correct

These lyrics continue to try to empower their listeners to look into the world surrounding them, basically saying if you don’t like what you see, change it. This focuses on the production of sport utility vehicles that have become dependent on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, otherwise known as OPEC (“Beastie Boys Lyrics,” 2004). . The Beastie Boys seek accountability and point out the easier path taken, is not the best.

We’ve got a president we didn’t elect

The Kyoto treaty he decided to neglect

Again, showing their discourse for Bush, Beastie Boys bring to light the Kyoto treaty that both the President and the Senate rejected because of its lack of “binding targets and timetables”. Bush choose to call it a “flawed treaty” which the Beastie Boys clearly call out (Kyoto Protocol, Wikipedia). “I think it’s due time that we inspect how they get their information and their facts are checked. Another press conference someone’s talking out their neck.” “We’ve got to give before we can get” again bringing to light, if we continue to depreciate our surroundings they will no longer exist (“Beastie Boys Lyrics,” 2004).

Beastie Boy’s then speak directly to Bush:

Environmental destruction and the national debt

But plenty of dollars left in the fat war chest

Now, what the real deal why you can’t connect?

Why you hating people that you never met?

Didn’t your mama teach you to show some respect?

Why not open your mind for a sec?

The Beastie Boys have made a point to submerge themselves in all forms media in order to maintain their audience: film, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, music and video games. By involving dominate values such as political events, ethnic and religion issues, the Beastie Boys tend to gain the approval and understanding of their audiences. (Branston, 2006)

I see you’re still strong after all that’s gone on

Life long we dedicate this song

Just a little something to show some respect

To the city that blends and mends and tests

Since 911 we’re still livin’

And lovin’ life we’ve been given

Ain’t nothing gonna take that away from us

Were lookin’ pretty and gritty ’cause in the city we trust

Dear New York I know a lot has changed

2 towers down but you’re still in the game

Home to the many rejecting no one

Accepting peoples of all places, wherever they’re from

In “Open Letter to NYC” depicts the strength of New York City even in the light of recent terrorist attacks to their twin towers. The Beastie Boys also take time to point out the New York City’s attitudes of cultural equality and support. (“Beastie Boys Lyrics,” 2004) In the second to last track “We Got The”, the Beastie Boys make their last attempt to get their audience optimistic and proactive about the future. Sending the message that the audience must fight for their rights and to strive to change the world for the greater good of humanity. By using lyrics they connect to, and can empower their audience.

We can work, walk, march and protest

Think about how we approach this

Ask questions but they keep frontin’

Due time we change a little something

Who got the power to make a difference?

Who got the power to make a change?

Who got the power to make a difference?

We got the

We got the

We got the

The Beastie Boys bank on the audience to take time to encode and decode their lyrics and in the end hopes that they will make an educated decision of their own. Also directing to a dominant hegemonic audience that will rally with them no questions asked. In the Beastie Boys film “Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!” they gave 50 audience members from their sold out concert at Madison Square Garden video cameras to record their experience (“Awesome; I,”, Wikipedia). By letting fan’s produce their show, they give buzz to open social integration and focus on the uses and gratifications model. (Branston, 2006)

It is difficult to find a fault in the Beastie’s Boys celebrity power. Once sexist and crude, they now focus on positive changes to our nation (particularly racism and declassification) as well as promoting globalism. Although their lyrics push their audience to listen to their political and environmental activism, they also are optimistic that the audience will become empowered to rebuild the world along with them.


A History of the Milarepa Fund

Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!;_I_Fuckin’_Shot_That!

Beastie Boys – To the 5 Boroughs (Parlophone) (2004, June 14) –

Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys Lyrics Annotated (2004, June 16)

Branston, G., Stafford, R. The Media Student’s Book (2006)

D’Angelo, J. Beastie Boys Kick Off Benefits With Peaceful Sonic Assault (2001, Oct 29)

Kyoto Protocol

MCA (musician)

Reverb. What We Do

Tibetan Freedom Concert

Welsh, D. Beastie Boys – To the 5 Boroughs (2004, July 8)


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